November 17, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) – The British government announced the release of a food aid package of $ 316 US dollar (four billion Birr) to help international efforts to relief over 6 million people facing starvation.
Last October Ethiopia appealed for 159,410 tonnes of food, costing $121 million, $8.9 million worth of fortified blended food for malnourished women and children, and for $45 million in non-food needs. The government said number of people in need of urgent assistance during the period October to December 2009 has increased to 6.2 million from 4.9 million at beginning of the year.
Also there are 7.6 million people on support through a food-for-work scheme in rural areas. This raises to 13 million the total of people in need to food assistance.
The UK Minister of State for International Development, Gareth Thomas MP, announced an aid package of four billion Birr this year to support the provision of basic services, social protection and humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, the official news agency ENA said today.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Thomas said that the fund will be used for expansion of health and education services as well as safe water provision and road construction over the next three years.
The visiting minister also encouraged the Ethiopian authorities to investigate allegations by opposition parties that local officials are using food aid to force opposition members to join the ruling party ahead of national elections.
"I have heard allegations from the international community about distribution of food aid and the (food-for-work) programme and I have already raised those accusations with the deputy prime minister," Thomas, said.
He further added "These allegations should be investigated thoroughly. The government said if evidence is produced that they would investigate and that was encouraging."
At the end of October the World Bank approved a total grant of 480 million US dollars for Ethiopia’s safety net program which is helping to uplift millions of poor Ethiopians from extreme poverty.
"The board of directors approved a US$350 million grant and a US$130 million credit to Ethiopia to support an innovative program that is keeping millions of families out of extreme poverty and helping them to achieve food security," the bank said in a statement.
However the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zinawi in a meeting with the British minister said the international media have exaggerated food shortage occurred in Ethiopia.